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March 8, 2006

creata: writing to health

by gl. at 9:59 pm

this is the fifth in a series of posts about workshops sponsored by CREATA during Creative Arts Therapy week. session date mar07.

the most dynamic and interesting presentation so far was from the well arts institute, which talked about a project called "performing wellness," developed from a artists repertory theatre outreach project. essentially, members of a targeted population (e.g., cancer survivors) learn to write plays about their stories, at which point, with the input of the author, they are professionally cast, directed & publically staged, providing an opportunity for catharsis and witnessing.

one of the primary tools they use is something they call "wild child writing," which is very similar to the morning page exercise i just did w/ rob's class). wild-child writing is topic-directed, stream-of-consciousness writing. the goal is to write right past the barriers their internal censors try to erect, to write despite their self-criticism, to learn how to recognize their own voices. at that point, they can begin to work on their plays. there is no critiquing of the work done in this project, nor can a participant use words they may have already written about the event.

during the workshop, we tried the wild-child writing three times: once with the prompt "right now i am feeling," then with the prompt "i am water" and finally with the prompt "i am earth." then we highlighted three words and three phrases in each writing and using only those combined words, created a poem:

i am earth

i make breath and dreams
creatures you have yet to meet
i keep you from the sky and you resent that
but i have no quarrel with the sky
my mountains pin me to her
because she has no hands to hold me.

wait. this quake grows slow, thunderous.
what is this language i speak?
it is the rising and falling of breathing
heaving like birth
the taste of sour and salt.
blood, moon, heart.

one of the things the presenter wanted to make clear was that while "performing wellness" is therapeutic, it is not therapy (have you heard that somewhere before?) and they had a great document i may need to adapt for my own therapy vs therapeutic statement:

the creative process vs therapy
differentiating performing wellness from therapy

as someone with a theatre degree that's just sitting around gathering dust, this presentation made me realize that what i've been waiting for in theatre is a culture of compassion rather than competition. there is something amazingly powerful in acting and telling someone else's story, and egos just get in the way.

in artist's way we do an exercise inspired by playback theatre, and it's always an unexpected delight for the players & the teller to work together. it's a late-stage exercise after participants have developed trust in each other, so there's a fair amount of empathy & benevolence instead of pride & prejudice (ha! please forgive me the pun), which creates a very satisfying experience for all involved.

i was so impressed with this presentation i offered to volunteer for the well arts institute: i gave the presenter my card and she wants me to send her a resume. wish me luck!

(also recommended by one of the very nice people i connected with at the conference (hi, alecia!): what i want my words to do to you, a film about a similar program for women inmates.)

posted by gl. | March 8, 2006 9:59 PM | categories: artist's way, classes & workshops, writing